old

Master David WoodwardThis time last year no one could have foreseen the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent disruption to life that we still find ourselves coping with, writes David Woodward, Master of The Furniture Makers’ Company, the industry charity and City of London livery company.

 

The pandemic has affected all manner of people and businesses right across the furnishing industry. From the lone maker whose order book disappeared overnight following lockdown, right up to manufacturers and household name retailers that sadly buckled under financial pressure.


At the start of the first lockdown, The Furniture Makers’ Company acted swiftly to create a package of financial support for anyone who had been furloughed on reduced pay, made redundant or were unable to work because of lockdown or shielding from the virus.


This continues and I’m pleased to say that we’ve provided financial lifelines in the form of Personal Support Grants to hundreds of people who have been financially disadvantaged by Covid-19, like Layla.


Single parent Layla was made redundant from her customer service advisor job at Laura Ashley when the retailer sadly went into administration.


Layla immediately applied for universal credit as she needed to support her two children, but like many had to wait weeks before receiving anything.


Although she was given a redundancy pay out, it only just covered her rent and outgoings for a month, but fortunately kept the family afloat until universal credit kicked in. Universal Credit now covers the family rent but she still has other outgoings to be met.


We were able to offer monthly support by way of a Personal Support Grant for a maximum of four months. Our grant will not affect her welfare benefit calculations but will make a difference to the reduced household income while she looks for a new job.


Helping people like Layla is exactly what our charity is here is do, but there are still plenty of industry colleagues out there who may be in need but are unaware that we exist entirely.


The uphill battle we have always faced is raising awareness of the charity among the working age, grass roots of our industry who are the most vulnerable — with rents and mortgages to pay, families to support and little or no savings — to any loss of income.


We’re a relatively small industry charity, after all. We don’t have the budgets of national charities to target individuals. We therefore have to work hard with companies in industry to cascade our message down. Welfare is a tough subject to talk about, but the only way we are going to change that is by addressing it head on. Our One Step at a Time campaign has played a key role in getting the word out about the charity.


It was launched last year to start a conversation with companies in industry and get them thinking about welfare and subsequently sign them up as champions — One Step Champions — and commit to promoting the charity internally within their businesses.


The free campaign has been very successful and to date we have signed up 104 companies, representing thousands of workers, as One Step Champions, but way more is needed to be done. This is where you come in. More companies signed up means more people who know we can be there for them in times of need.


It’s very simple to sign up and on registering, we will make it as easy as possible for you to spread the word by sending you posters, help cards and digital collateral to display and share with employees at your workplace. You’ll also be put on a monthly mailing list and be sent new digital resources each month.


So, please, take the important first step and register. You’ll be sending a strong message that your company cares for the wellbeing and welfare of your employees and you never know, it could make a huge difference to the life of someone you work with one day.


Register for free now: www.furnituremakers.org.uk/one-step-at-a-time/